San Diego Sunshine

I just returned from an amazing, sun filled week in San Diego. You would think that, living in Canada, I travel to the United States all the time, but I usually go as far as possible when I travel, so I haven’t been to many states. To be fair, San Diego is really far, probably the furthest place in the States from where I live, so it’s not like I stuck close to home this time either!

I traveled with one of my best friends. She and I went to Spain nine years ago, so I knew we would travel well together! We also have our freak out moments at different times, which is a definite plus while traveling (her: can’t find the bus stop, me: too many people and someone touched me.)

We had originally booked a hostel, but ended up staying in an airbnb house, which was much better. I learned many things on this trip, the most important one being that I’m so done with hostels. I’m a grown-up now, no more sharing a bathroom with 13 people.

San Diego is a big city, and I’m sure we didn’t see everything, but we did as much as we could, and that included relaxing on the many beautiful beaches!

Day 1

We started with mimosas for breakfast, then we walked and walked and walked (over 21 000 steps, according to my fitbit!) We took a guided tour of the city on a trolley and stopped in several interesting places, including Old Town, Coronado and Seaport village.

Day 1

Day 2

We went to the zoo! I was so excited! I have a love affair with giraffes and they were amazing. There was a baby giraffe too. We also saw elephants, koalas, pink flamingos and pandas. There were plenty of other animals too. In the evening, we were so exhausted and were wondering what to do. We didn’t want to go out, but we didn’t want to just hang out around the house either. Someone gave us tickets to an advanced screening of Antman, so we ended up going to the movies!

Day 2

Day 3

Our first beach day. We went to Pacific beach and it was wonderful. There was quite a bit more seaweed than I would have liked, but it was the ocean, so I’m not really complaining. We had Mexican food for lunch, ate gelato and relaxed in the sun. It was a perfect day.

Day 3

Day 4

We took a trip to La Jolla to see the seals. They just lay out on the rocks, sunning themselves and pay no attention whatsoever to the people walking around them taking pictures. It was surreal to get so close to them. Also, they smell really bad. After lunch we left the cove and went to the beach. Less seaweed this time. I bought a hat and it made me feel fabulous.

Day 4

Day 5

Before we left, we booked a culinary walking tour of downtown for day 5. What we didn’t know was that it was the Pride parade, right in our neighbourhood! We missed the parade, but still saw plenty of colour and partying going on. Also, strangely enough, it rained! There was a huge thunderstorm, which is very unusual for San Diego. The end of our tour got canceled, so we got to go on another one the next day.

Day 5

Day 6

We started the day off at the Hillcrest farmer’s market. It was so cool to see people selling food they grow themselves, and there was definitely a different variety than what we have at home. On the way, I stopped at an atm, and it was covered in glitter! The Pride festivities were still going strong. After the market, we headed to North Park for our second culinary walking tour. There was wine. Bliss.

Day 6

Day 7

Our last day was spent in Balboa Park. There are lots of museums in the park, but we wanted to enjoy our last day of beautiful San Diego weather outdoors. We visited the botanical garden, the rose garden and the desert garden. We had to leave in the afternoon to make our flight, but it was the perfect last day in this amazing city.

Day 7

I loved San Diego and I would definitely go back. I enjoy spending a whole week in one city, because it gives me a better feel for a place and I don’t have to pick one or two things to see, I can do it all (almost).

Where to next?

Realistic travel inspiration

I love traveling. I also rather enjoy Pinterest. When you put the two together, you get an abundance of lovely images with inspirational quotes on them like “Travel while you’re young, don’t worry about the money” and “I’ve left my heart in so many places”. These are great, and I pin them to my Wanderlust board like nobody’s business.

But.

Traveling is not really like that, is it? I’ve recently returned from a ten day trip to Costa Rica (I’ve been there three times. I love it. You might even say I’ve left pieces of my heart there.) It was an amazing trip, and quite the learning experience. However, it wasn’t picture perfect. The airline lost my luggage (it went to Hawaii) and I found myself buying 12$ deodorant and carrying around hotel toiletries in a shower cap. A three hour trip to a volcano took over 5 hours, and I was green by the time we got there. Oh, and it rained and the clouds covered up the volcano. I went hiking in flip flops and used my credit card like I stole it from someone. It was real. It was incredible.

Sometimes, the travel bug is an actual bug, and not worrying about money means spending 14$ on a toothbrush. I think what Pinterest needs is some realistic travel inspiration, not just the pretty stuff. So here is my take on travel inspiration, for the real world.

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bugs

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moments

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sand

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Happy travels!

Surf’s up!

Two weeks ago today, I was surfing in Costa Rica.

In the weeks leading up to my trip, I told anyone who would listen that I was going to try surfing. I was very excited about it, even though I didn’t expect to be very successful. Secretly, though, I kind of thought I was all talk. I half-expected to chicken out once I got there.

My first full day at Peace Retreat, I asked if anyone would try surfing with me. Another yogi from Ottawa, Mélissa, said she would. We made plans to go the next day. We had a lesson set up and there was no backing out!

On the morning of the lesson, I was a little nervous, but I was also busy getting a bikini custom made, so I didn’t think about it much. Once we got to the beach however, I started to have second thoughts. The waves were huge. I’m not a strong swimmer. Also, sharks.

We met up with our surfing instructor, Forest, who was waiting for us on the beach. We practiced laying on the board, paddling and jumping up, feet apart. I felt clumsy on the sand, so needless to say, wasn’t super confident I would get up on my board in the water.

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Walking towards the water, I was still apprehensive, but I was getting more and more excited.

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Heading straight into the waves, I realized I was afraid I’d be scared, I wasn’t actually scared. After that, I started to have much more fun!

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I face planted into the ocean several times. Salt water tastes like pretzels.

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Then, after several tumbles off my board into the waves, something exciting happened. I started to get a feeling. After I started paddling and the wave had me in it’s hold, I would feel like the moment was right. It was time to get up. And I did. More than once! Sure, my board was huge and there was no controlling where it was going, but I was surfing. Actually, for real, surfing!

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It was such a rush! I couldn’t believe I actually did it! Our lesson was for two hours, but after an hour and a half, I was too pooped to keep going. It was hard paddling over the waves. It used a lot of upper body strength that I don’t actually have! Mélissa lasted a little longer than me, but when we were done, we walked back to the retreat very, very slowly.

We were covered in sand, I had a huge bruise forming on the back of my leg from rolling around with my board in two inches of water and falling on the fin, our legs and arms were like jello and we had swallowed a gallon of salt water between us. It was the best feeling in the world.

How to do yoga in the jungle

I just spent a blissful week in Costa Rica doing yoga. I love yoga so, so much! Hot yoga is my favourite, so I wasn’t worried about doing yoga somewhere deliciously hot. I learned quite a few things about myself and my practice when I was there. I also learned some valuable lessons about doing yoga in the jungle and at the beach.

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1. It is not your jungle

You know who was there first? The ants! They were there to stay, but thankfully, ants don’t bother me at all. These weren’t some kind of crazy, biting ants, just yellowish, let me eat your picnic, ants. I also saw the biggest grasshopper ever, in the world. There was a praying mantis who caught my attention for so long, I was no longer paying attention to class.

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2. I am not a morning yoga person

I woke up every day as the sun came up and got up around 6:30. This was not difficult for me, it was actually enjoyable, which was a surprise. Meditation started at 7:15, and lasted 15 minutes. I enjoyed this as well. Not so surprised here. Yoga was from 7:30 to 9am. This was very difficult for me. Big surprise!

Although I love practicing, morning is not a good time for me. I didn’t feel like pushing myself at all and just kind of moved through the poses. I had very little energy and no desire to find any. I was also hungry, which didn’t help the situation. About halfway through class, I would find some energy and start to enjoy myself a little more.

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3. Monkeys trump yoga

During class one afternoon, someone saw a monkey. Well, it didn’t take long before we all got up off our mats and ran for the windows to see it! As an elementary school teacher, I’m usually on the other end of something like this, trying to teach when everyone wants to make sure they don’t miss what’s going on outside. It was cute, and it was swinging from a branch, acting like a monkey. I think he knew we were watching.

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4. Yoga on the beach is not really going to happen

About ten of us from the retreat went into Tamarindo for the day, with very good intentions of practicing yoga together on the beach at the end of the day. You know where we ended up? In a restaurant, eating and drinking! I have lots of pictures of me doing yoga poses on the beach, but I never did an actual practice. It was usually too hot. Also, when I’m at the beach, there so many sights, sounds and smells, there’s no way I’m staying present. What if I miss something, like a shark or a pelican?

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5. Yin wins

When I first started this blog, I was doing a lot of power yoga. After my week in paradise, I can confirm what I’ve been feeling for a while: I’m not much of a power person anymore. I like yin, with it’s melt-into-the-floor poses and passive postures. I’m not saying I’ll never do power yoga again, and I still love flow, but the afternoon classes, which were less power, more yin, were like candy to me. Maybe it was the slow pace of Costa Rica that got me all yin-like, or the fact that I was running around all day learning how to surf and stand up paddleboard with the crocodiles, leaving me with little energy for yoga at the end of the day. Yin was a welcome relaxation.

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The yoga studio at Peace Retreat had an open feel to it, letting in air, light, and the sounds of the jungle. I felt very lucky to be able to practice in such a beautiful setting. I can’t wait to go back and practice there again!

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Pura Vida

You know that feeling, when everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be and you’re exactly where you should be? It doesn’t come around very often, but last week, while I was in Costa Rica, I felt it. After only two days, I knew I belonged there. It just felt right. I’m not ready to give up my whole life and move there, just yet, but I am already planning my next trip. A girl can easily get hooked on the feeling of knowing she is where she is meant to be.

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I can no more cover my whole trip, even though it was only a week, in one post, than I could count the books I’ve read. It’s impossible, there’s too much magic to squeeze in to one little post. I’m not even sure I can find the words to express the wonder, the joy, the excitement that this adventure brought me. But I will try.

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I stayed at a place called Peace Retreat Costa Rica. People say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I’m guessing they haven’t been to Peace Retreat yet. It’s owned and run by Hali and Kevin, two Canadians who moved their life and family down to this happy, beautiful, peaceful corner of Costa Rica. The place is amazing, but it’s their light and love that make it shine.

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Peace Retreat is located in the village of Los Pargos, which, I learned from a Tico, is slang for lazy people. I didn’t meet anyone I would call lazy, but the slow, easygoing way of life was definitely appealing. There’s a beach, called Playa Negra, and it draws surfers to it, like bookstores lure me in, like a mermaid calling to the sailors.

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The village is pretty remote, so it’s not a big tourist attraction. I loved that, even though, technically, I was a tourist. I say technically, because in my heart, I knew I belonged there, and when you belong, you’re not a tourist, are you? There are dirt roads and people regularly stop and ask you if you need a ride. No one wears shoes. Everyone smiles. No one says “I have a deadline” or “I’d love to, but I have to do all this work I brought home”. I’m not saying people’s lives there are perfect, because I’m sure they’re not. We all have our issues, but to an outsider, it all looked pretty amazing.

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I did yoga, learned how to surf and picked a lemon from a tree. I saw lizards, monkeys and I almost saw a crocodile. (I was happy I didn’t!) I took a stand up paddleboard tour through the mangroves, heard the monkeys every morning before the sun came up and got myself a custom made bikini (pink, of course). I went to Tamarindo, tried to do a handstand on the beach and leapt into the air every time someone said “Jump shot!”.

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Pura Vida means pure life. Life at it’s purest form should be, in my opinion, joy. And that’s what I found in Costa Rica. Joy. Bliss. Happiness.

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Winter Blues

I am not an equal lover of all seasons. I enjoy all of them, just not the same way. Spring’s got flowers, rain, dresses, rain boots and grass. Summer has sun, beach days, camping, vacations and ice cream. Fall is colours, sweaters, pumpkins, scarves, lattes and boots. Winter has snow. Also, it’s got snow.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some great things about winter as well. Hot chocolate, reading wrapped up in a blanket, skating, tea and that quiet feeling when it’s snowing and all the sounds are muffled and everything is soft.

Another thing winter has is cold and dark days. The days are so short, it’s dark when you wake up, and dark when you leave work. This serious lack of sunlight is quite the downer.

The past few weeks, I’ve been having the winter blues. I’m bored, but I don’t want to do anything. I want to get out of the house, but it’s too cold to go outside. I want to see my friends, but I’m too lazy to move. I want something different, but I don’t know what.

I don’t hate winter, but I’m looking forward to Spring!

Since sunshine and daffodils are still a couple of months away, I’ve decided to make my own bright and happy days. Well, to find some. I’m going to Costa Rica for a week of yoga, adventure, sunshine, beaches, turtles, surfing and bliss. I’m leaving on Saturday and I am looking forward to it!

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La Habana

When I was in Cuba with my mom, we decided to throw in a little culture into our trip and booked a day-trip into Havana. I was curious about the country’s capital. 12.5 million people live in Cuba, and 2.5 million of those people live in Havana. I didn’t know much about the country’s history and I was interested in learning more.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed. Not with Havana, which was as vibrant, colourful and intriguing as I imagined it to be. It was like walking around a movie set, although I’m sure people who live there don’t feel like that! The city seemed to have a beat, a rhythm of it’s own.

No, I was disappointed because the tour had us spending time doing things like buying cigars (I didn’t want any), visiting a museum where you had to pay to take pictures and everything was in Spanish (obviously, but I didn’t understand it all) and having lunch in a restaurant for an hour and a half (it wasn’t even Cuban food). I wanted more.

However, I still saw plenty. On the way there, I saw so many horses, cows and goats tied to ropes by the highway, just chomping away on some roadside grass. There were chickens everywhere too! I wanted to shoo them off the road. I was worried they would turn into squashed chicken.

Also, I have never paid to pee so much in my entire life. By the washrooms, there were women waiting and you had to pay if you wanted toilet paper. The first time, it was a new experience. After that, it was just annoying!

There were many old cars in Havana. So many colours! I don’t know much about cars, so I can’t tell you what kind they were, but I saw a really fabulous pink car and also a bride and groom drive by in an amazing purple convertible.

I didn’t get a picture of the goats or the blissful couple on their wedding day, but I did get some great pictures of the city.

I might have been a little dissapointed by the tour, but it was great to actually see the city. It made a nice change from sitting on the beach trying to find the balance between coming home a little darker than when I left, and not getting a sunburn so bad it would feel like my skin shrunk.

Also, I had a Where in the World is Carmen San Diego computer game when I was a kid, and all I could think on the drive to Havana was “He went to Havana to eat a fried banana.” That was one of the clues in the game and the first thing that popped in my head when someone mentioned Havana. I’m happy to say I am now much more informed about Cuba’s capital!